28 Jun 2010

PNG justice minister bans public debate of amendment

3:38 pm on 28 June 2010

Papua New Guinea's justice minister, Ano Pala, has issued an extraordinary decree imposing a media blackout on debate over controversial legal amendments to environmental laws surrounding a Chinese-run mine.

The minister, who is also the Attorney-General, has also ordered police commanders to stop any planned protests against the laws.

Mr Pala says there is to be no more discussion, comment or reference in the media to the Environment Act amendments.

This applies to talkback radio programmes or interviews, advertisements and letters to the editor.

The NGO, Act Now, equates the edict to the actions of an African dictator.

The head of Transparency International PNG, Peter Aitsi, says the government move raises questions.

"We believe it's not the place for an elected representatives to issue such edicts because it creates a doubt within the public's mind in terms of the motivation and the interests that such an edict represents."

Peter Aitsi of Transparency International PNG

Earlier this month, an MP Ken Fairweather quit the government ranks, saying the mine will cause irreversible damage to his Madang electorate.